Teaching kids to budget isn’t exactly a once and done deal. It’s one of those long, drawn-out processes that is continually on-going the entire time your child lives at home. Sounds like fun, eh??
Well, I’m not going to bore you with all the tiny little ways here and there that you can reinforce budgeting over the 18 years your kid lives at home. Instead, I’m going to share one of our favorite ways, because even my kids think this is fun!
Let’s actually rewind a few decades back to when I was a kid myself. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and there were 6 kids in the house… sometimes my mom was just plain, ole tired! But instead of saying she didn’t feel like cooking dinner that night, she’d declare it Fend For Yourself Night and take us to the grocery store where we each had $1 to buy our own dinner!
Yes, you read that correctly… $1. Guys, these nights were THE BEST!! Seriously, I can still remember my sisters and I running around the store trying to figure out what we could buy for $1. Sometimes we’d go off on our own and end up with a $1 frozen pizza. Other times we would pool our money and get something a little more “extravagant” to share. It was fun, it was a challenge and it gave my mom the night off for once!
I’ve continued the same tradition with my kids, but I vary how much I give them to keep them on their toes. We’ve been doing this for years and, I swear, it never gets old for them!
We don’t have a set day of the week we do this, or even a set number of times we do it per month. We just aren’t scheduled enough in that way. It usually ends up happening about twice a month, though. They’d do it twice a week if I let them. Seriously, they love coming grocery shopping with me!
There’s no fussing while they’re there. There’s no bugging each other. There’s really not. This isn’t a case of selective memory or me trying to sugar coat it so you think I live some ideal life. They are told how much they have to spend on their dinners before we ever arrive at the store, and they know there is not allowed to be one instance of asking for more money or bickering if they can’t agree on something. They also are 13 and 15 and have been doing this for most of their lives, so keep in mind that they have experience under their belts.
I even took some of my favorite recipes and tweaked them to be a bit more kid-friendly for when my kids were younger! I wrote up all my tips and tricks, meal prompt ideas and even created a printable shopping list for little kids. This is perfect for them to write down their ingredients, keep a running total of the money they’ve spent and check off what they’ve bought!
Plus there are 10 of our favorite kid-friendly recipes included with ways to tweak them for various ages! You can’t beat that for less than the cost of one meal!
I wish I had a better memory, but I think we started when my kids were around 4 and 6. I was much more involved then- helping them with calculators, prompting them with ideas, they had to stay with me the whole time, helping at home, etc. But even then, they still had to be involved with every step down to the dishwashing (even if I redid it after they went to bed). Now, I’m barely involved at all.
The most I ever give them is $5 each to spend. Sometimes I give them $2.75 each. Sometimes it’s $3.30. It’s different every time, and I usually try to tell them the night before. Although remember, I stink at schedules so sometimes it’s only like an hour before!
Don’t be like me, though, because letting them know the night before gives them time to look at the grocery flyers. My kids would kill it at that Price is Right game where you have to name the current price of items. They LOVE looking at the grocery store flyers and planning out what they’re getting the next day.
My son cracks me up because he will actually make a list with everything priced out- avocado, dozen eggs… he’s even asked the butcher at the meat counter for $1.25 worth of fresh, ground sausage because that’s what he had left from his budget and he was in the mood for an omelet!
There are a couple rules that they have to follow for Fend For Yourself Nights. It’s not just a free for all in the store with my money.